W.E. – Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re fascinated by British Royals and are already aware of how and why the Duke of Windsor abdicated as King to marry twice-divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, you’ll be able to follow this convoluted concept, co-written and directed by Madonna, who ineptly blends dual stories into “W.E.,” standing for Wallis and Edward.

In Manhattan in 1998, unhappily married Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is obsessed with the upcoming auction of the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, with whom she fantasizes a personal connection, since she was named after Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the charismatic , calculating social-climber who captured the heart of King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy) in the 1930s.

During her daily visits to Sotheby’s, where she’s befriended by a Russian-émigré security guard, Evgeni (Oscar Isaac), Wally learns more about the scorn she suffered and sacrifices Wallis made to marry Edward (a.k.a. David). After travelling to London to read private letters owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed (father of Dodi, Princess Diana’s lover), Wally follows Wallis’ “Get a life” advice, mustering the courage to leave her abusive psychiatrist husband (Richard Coyle) and pursue her own happiness.

Although the Windsors were known to be shallow, materialistic Nazi sympathizers, entertained by Hitler at his Berchtesgaden sanctuary in 1937, Madonna and her co-writer Alek Keshishian (“Truth or Dare”) take a lofty view of history. At a press conference in Toronto, Madonna defended her simplistic, sympathetic portrayal saying, “In the end, I think the truth is subjective. We can read the same history books and come away with a different point of view.”

Instead, the emphasis is on glossy production design, cliché-riddled dialogue and glamorous garb, particularly Cartier gem-encrusted crosses that the King bought for Wallis and her luxurious, ultra-chic, Mainbocher/Vionnet/Schiaparelli-designed wardrobe. Inexplicably, in one imagined sequence, Wallis dirty-dances to the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant;” in another, she gyrates to Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” Unfortunately, the inept editing removes any sense of connective drama.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “W.E.” is a flimsy, if fashionable 5 – a folly for Anglophiles.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.